Your USA-Portugal preview: There's a lot more to hate than just Cristiano Ronaldo

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Your USA-Portugal preview: There's a lot more to hate than just Cristiano Ronaldo

I mean just look at this guy. (AP Photo)

Look at this guy. Seriously, just look at him. It's almost too easy to hate on Cristiano Ronaldo. If you don't hate him, then just read The Evster's guide to hating him. You will. That doesn't make it not-fun, mind you, but Ronaldo-hate is for amateurs. And since you've been staying up to date with The Level's World Cup coverage, you are FAR from an amateur at this point. Everyone watching the now-even-more-important USA-Portugal match (6 p.m. - ESPN) with you tonight* will hate on Ronaldo (or swoon over him, depending on who you're with). (*You are watching with some people, right? You have plenty of options.) Here's a few more reasons to hate* on Portugal, followed by some actual sort-of soccer points. (*I'm using "hate" in the good clean fun sports sense. I'm a nice guy who doesn't hate anyone. Except J.D. Drew. Eff that guy).

Raul Meireles

1. Raul Meireles

Raul Meireles, or Brian Wilson?

Who He Is: A midfielder who plays in the shadow of Ronaldo, as every Portuguese midfielder does. That's the way Cristiano likes it. Why You Should Hate Him: Just look at his stupid face. He looks like the love child of Brian Wilson and Marvin the Martian. Or really, he just looks like Brian Wilson. And who likes that guy? Why You Will Hate Him: He's the guy most likely to injure an American hero. With the king of the dirty tackle, Raul, out from a red card after head-butting a German, Meireles is the guy most likely to slide tackle Michael Bradley from behind and break his leg. He's also pretty damn good. Why He Won't Matter: Because Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman will eat him alive, and Bradley will find a seam behind him to set up an American goal.

Nani

2. Nani Who He Is: A right-side midfielder who doesn't like to pass, and will be the target of multiple Ronaldo "why aren't you as good as me?" head shakes. Why You Should Hate Him: First of all, he plays for Manchester United. Oh, that's not enough for you? He goes by one name like he's freakin' Brazilian. Sure, Portugal and Brazil speak the same language, but you can't just do the single-name thing. Why You Will Hate Him: He'll make one or two solo moves in the first half that make an American player (likely Damarcus Beasley) look really silly. Why He Won't Matter: Because once he makes that fancy move to beat Beasley, he'll be so proud of himself that he'll start hamming for the camera and get dispossessed. Also, in the second half, he'll remember that he doesn't ever put out more than 45 minutes of effort, and become a non-factor.

Joao Moutinho

3. Joao Moutinho Who He Is: Portugal's playmaker and main conduit to Cristiano Ronaldo. He'll have the ball more than any other Portuguese player, and will spend his entire day trying to set up Ronaldo so he doesn't get yelled at after the game. Why You Should Hate Him: He's that guy you hated in your pickup football/basketball/other football/softball game. The little tiny dude (he's listed at 5-foot-7) who you take one look at and think you can "take," and then he embarrasses you in front of the girl you have a crush on... then takes the girl. Why You Will Hate Him: If the Portuguese find a way past the midfield brick wall of Jones and Beckerman (a big "if"), Moutinho is likely going to be the guy who starts the move. Why He Won't Matter: Because Nani will probably steal the ball from him by-accident-on-purpose (this happened against Germany) and then shove him like those two Cameroonian guys did the other night.

* * *

So now you know who to hate, and you already know where to watch, it's time to put the ball down and get moving.

The Americans are clearly hurt without Jozy Altidore (who apparently fell victim to The 700 Level Photoshop jinx). But, defender Matt Besler and forward Clint Dempsey are good to go after injuries against Ghana, and will both likely start.

The only changes you MIGHT see from the opener will be either Aron Johannsson or Chris Wondolowski in place of Altidore, and possibly Graham Zusi starting over Alejandro Bedoya. There is a slight chance Dempsey starts as a lone striker and they clog things up for Ronaldo with another midfielder, but I'm hoping Jurgen Klinsmann is more positive than that.

For much more (MUCH MUCH more) on the tactics for the match (seriously, you can really impress your friends), check out The Shin Guardian's preview.

With the Germany-Ghana draw on Saturday, the United States would secure a spot in the knockout stage with a win over Portugal. They would then need a draw or better against Germany to win the group.

  • A win and a draw in any order, would secure first place in the group.
  • A win and a loss in any order would be enough to advance.
  • Two draws would be enough to advance (likely as second place).

So, a loss against Portugal wouldn't the end, but it's BAD. The Americans would then need a win against a German team that can't rest any starters in the final game. I believe there is also a mathematical way to advance with two losses, but it's not likely. (UPDATE: Commenter Rick (thanks Rick!) checks my math and proves there is no way for the U.S. to advance with two losses.)

Does first place matter? Yes. The group winner will likely face South Korea, Russia or Algeria in the cooler southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. The second-place finisher likely draws a strong Belgium squad in much-warmer Salvador.

My prediction for the first match -- a 3-1 American win -- wasn't too far off, although I predicted two Altidore goals. Close enough.

As for this match? The U.S. takes a surprising 2-0 lead, then holds on at the end as we all age 20 years in the final 10 minutes:

USA 2, Portugal 1.

Nothing to hate about that.

Awwwwe: Chooch leaves his Phillies teammates a love note on clubhouse whiteboard

Awwwwe: Chooch leaves his Phillies teammates a love note on clubhouse whiteboard

As if you didn't think you could love Carlos Ruiz any more...

Chooch was traded on Thursday afternoon and he's since departed for potentially playoff-bound pastures with his new-again teammate Chase Utley and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But not before he left his Phillies teammates a loving note written on the whiteboard in the clubhouse at Citi Field where the Phils play the Mets this evening.

Courtesy of CSNPhilly.com's Phillies beat reporter Jim Salisbury:

It reads:

"I will miss all of you guys. Good luck the rest of the season. Love you all, Chooch! (Gracias)"

Awwwwwwwwe.

Gestures like the above help explain why guys like Roy Halladay call Chooch their favorite baseball player ever.

Is Eagles' Carson Wentz the 'holy grail' of modern NFL QB prospects?

Is Eagles' Carson Wentz the 'holy grail' of modern NFL QB prospects?

The NFL is constantly evolving, but pro offenses, their very design, and the types of athletes who can run those offenses are changing, rapidly beyond recognition.

That is precisely one of the reasons behind the Eagles' bold decision to trade three years worth of draft picks in April for the opportunity to get Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State. Because Wentz didn't represent merely another quarterback prospect coming out of college — some feel as though this 23-year-old kid might be the future of the position in the NFL.

Don't take my word for it. Take that of Brad Childress, former Eagles offensive coordinator who eventually wound up following long-time head coach Andy Reid to Kansas City. It's there where Childress was tasked with a unique role: "spread game analyst."

For more on that, what the spread offense is and how its prevalence in the college game is altering the landscape of the NFL, you'll have to read Kevin Clark's piece over at The Ringer. Trust us, it's worth it. Long-time Eagles executive Joe Banner hails the piece as, "One of the best, smartest, most correct articles I have read in a long time," and it's hard to argue. Chances are you'll learn something.

But for our purposes, the aspect of the piece we'll focus on is how the growth of the spread offense is tied to the selection of Wentz. NFL coaches like Childress or front-office types such as Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman see in Wentz a rare hybrid of the the spread and pro-style quarterback, which as it turns out, may be ideally suited to succeed in a league that increasingly uses both types of offense.

Childress, meanwhile, believes the current holy grail is the prospect who ran spread plays at the college level that can be easily imported to the pro level. He mentioned Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who at North Dakota State played in a multiple-style offense that incorporated spread concepts. Childress was impressed that Wentz played under center sometimes and in the shotgun at other times, and that regardless of the formation, he was adept at making various throws. He said some of the sweep plays Wentz ran were particularly impressive, and that he wants to incorporate what he saw into the Chiefs’ game plan.

Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman, who took Wentz second overall in the draft, called his college system “a pro-style concept that hints at where the sport is going.” Roseman, like Spielman, said that changes in the college game have forced him to alter how he evaluates passers: Because the college game is so different from the NFL game, Roseman is forced to put less emphasis on tape and more emphasis on test scores and smarts.

It's an extremely interesting perspective. It also jives with another line of thinking many believe led the Eagles to jump all over Wentz: There may not be another college signal-caller with this type of makeup to come around for a long time, as more and more programs go to entirely spread-based systems.

Yes, concepts of the spread have made their way to the NFL, and they're likely there to stay. However, whether it will become an offense that's fully embraced around the league is a bit trickier, which is why it's probably best to have somebody who can do it all. That partially explains why Wentz became so attractive to the Eagles.

It's also not at all surprising that Childress, Reid, Roseman and current Eagles coach Doug Pederson would all share similar mindsets on the direction the NFL is headed. There are too many ties here for it to be purely a coincidence, and Clark's piece about the spread offense would seem to shed some light on some of the back story about how Wentz became an Eagle.

Charles Barkley weighs in on Zeke Elliott: 'all marijuana made me want to do was eat potato chips'

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Associated Press

Charles Barkley weighs in on Zeke Elliott: 'all marijuana made me want to do was eat potato chips'

Charles Barkley may have recently had his hip replaced but he hasn't let a little procedure slow him down. Well, slow his mouth down at least.

Sir Charles joined the 94 WIP morning show on Friday to chat with his old pal Howard Eskin.

The worst part about the hip replacement and need to use a walker for about six weeks?

“I can’t put my foot up your [butt] like I want to," Barkley told Eskin.

Their conversation was wide ranging: Olympics basketball, Cowboys RB Zeke Elliott being photographed in a marijuana shop in Seattle, his new show on TNT show "The Race Card," and anything else that came into his head.

They started off talking about Team USA and their gold medal in Rio. Sir Charles thinks they need more role players on that type of team.

"I thought they had too many ball-dominant guys. You need role players for that team to flow freely," Barkley said, pointing to DeAndre Jordan as one of the few guys on the team who played his role nicely without needing the ball.

Barkley would also love to see young players like Ben Simmons or even Nerlens Noel in the Olympics to make them more watchable.

Perhaps the funniest line of the interview came up when talking about Zeke Elliot being in a marijuana shop in Seattle where such a store is legal.

“That’s just stupid,” Barkley said.

“Come on, man. You gotta be smarter than that. I’m not a marijuana guy. I smoked pot like five times in my life. All it made me want to do was eat potato chips. It was like a waste of my time. I didn’t feel no euphoria, it didn’t take me to no special place. I just said, ‘do we have any more potato chips in the state of Alabama or Pennsylvania.’”

The two briefly mentioned Barkley's new show on TNT which will focus a lot on race relations.

“Cops have made some mistakes but we need the cops," Charles said. "We as black people need to do a much better job at policing ourselves. It’s not like it’s a right or wrong answer, there are a lot of layers.”

It's interesting to hear Barkley talk about a nuanced issue. You don't typically hear Sir Charles consider things with more than an instant response.

And, finally, the interview ended with Chuck saying something we can all agree on after learning Eskin was flying out to Indiana for an Eagles preseason football game.

“Preseason football may be the greatest scam in the world today. What a waste of time.”

Yep.

Check out the podcast of Barkley's interview here.